"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Jesus And The Children (18:1-14) INTRODUCTION 1. One of the more touching and endearing scenes during the life of Jesus was when He used a little child to teach His disciples some lessons - Mt 18:1-14 2. For all who would be true disciples of Jesus, there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from this passage [The first thing we are taught is...] I. THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION (1-4) A. WITHOUT CONVERSION, THERE IS NO SALVATION... 1. "Unless you are converted", Jesus said a. "You will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" b. Without conversion, we cannot have our sins blotted out - cf. Ac 3:19 c. And we will not enjoy "times of refreshing from the Lord" - cf. Ac 3:19 2. Note that the process of conversion is passive: "be converted" a. I.e., it is something you must allow to be done to you b. It begins when we in faith submit to "the working of God" 1) That is, in baptism - cf. Col 2:12 2) Wherein by God's mercy we experience "regeneration", "renewal" - Tit 3:5 c. It continues as we live the Christian life 1) God continues His working in us - cf. Php 1:6; 2:12-13 2) He will do so until the coming of Christ - 1Th 5:23-24 -- Have you, indeed are you, submitting to the working of God in your life so as to be truly converted? B. A CONVERSION INVOLVING CHILDLIKE HUMILITY... 1. This was the concern of Jesus in Mt 18:4 a. For His disciples had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom b. Jesus used a child to illustrate the sort of humility one must have 2. Paul later used Jesus as an example of humility - Php 2:3-5 -- Those who submit to the working of God in their lives will produce this kind of humility necessary for salvation - cf. Col 3:12-13 [The next thing we learn from this passage is...] II. THE SIN OF STUMBLING BLOCKS (5-7) A. WHO ARE THE "CHILDREN"? 1. Some think Jesus used an infant to make his point about humility, and is now discussing His adult disciples 2. But the Greek word for "child" (paidion) can refer to one as old as twelve years - cf. Mk 5:39-42 -- I understand Jesus to be discussing children old enough to believe, old enough to sin - Mt 18:6 B. THE TERRIBLENESS OF CAUSING CHILDREN TO SIN... 1. It would be better to be killed by drowning - Mt 18:6 2. "Woe to that man..." - Mt 18:7 3. Why so terrible? Because it is a sin against Christ Himself! a. Note Mt 18:5 and consider its opposite b. Paul learned this lesson on the road to Damascus - Ac 9:4-5 c. He taught this truth to brethren in Corinth - 1Co 8:9-13 C. HOW ONE CAN PUT STUMBLING BLOCKS IN A CHILD'S WAY... 1. By doing anything to keep them from serving Christ freely 2. Directly, by persecuting, ridiculing, opposing, or dissuading them from serving the Lord 3. Indirectly, by living a life inconsistent with what we claim to be! -- Are we putting stumbling blocks before our children, even unwittingly? [The next thing we can glean from these verses is...] III. THE REALITY OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT (8-9) A. SOME DENY PUNISHMENT AFTER DEATH, BUT NOT JESUS... 1. E.g., Seventh-Day Adventists and Members of the Watchtower Society (JWs) 2. Yet Jesus, more than any other, taught the reality of an eternal, suffering place of torment! a. The word "Gehenna" is used twelve times in Scripture, all but once by Jesus! b. Elsewhere He mentions "everlasting fire" and "everlasting punishment" - Mt 25:41,46 c. And so did His disciples - He 10:26-29; Re 21:8 3. Consider the implication of Mt 18:6 and He 10:28-29... a. What could be worse than drowning in the sea or dying without mercy? b. Acc. to those who deny punishment after death...nothing! -- Dare we "water down" what Jesus and the Bible teaches about the destiny of the wicked? B. WE SHOULD THEREFORE TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY... 1. So much so, that we remove whatever is close and dear to us if it causes us to sin! 2. Jesus is using hyperbole, of course, for what good would it be to pluck out only one eye? -- Sin is like cancer; sometimes "radical surgery" is the only solution! [Finally, we are taught in this passage about...] IV. THE PRECIOUSNESS OF GOD'S CHILDREN (10-14) A. THEIR ANGELS ALWAYS BEHOLD GOD'S FACE... 1. What this may involve, one can only speculate a. Many think this refers to "guardian angels" - cf. Ps 91: 9-12 b. We do know that angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation" - He 1:14 2. Our text speaks of their presence before God - Mt 18:10 a. Which some take to refer to their readiness to carry out the Father's wishes (Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke) b. At the very least we know there is joy in their presence when sinners repent - Lk 15:10 c. Will they not be dismayed when one of God's children sin, or is made to stumble by others? -- Their close proximity to God in heaven suggest the honor God has toward those children who believe! B. THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SAVE THEM... 1. Jesus came to die for them, too! - Mt 18:11 2. Jesus illustrated His concern for them with the parable of the lost sheep - Mt 18:12-13 -- If Jesus was willing to give His life for them, dare we despise or neglect them? C. THE FATHER DOESN'T WANT TO LOSE EVEN ONE... 1. It is not His will - Mt 18:14 2. Notice: He does not want to lose "one" of these little ones! -- If both the Father and Son think so highly of these little ones, should not we? CONCLUSION 1. The words of Jesus should motivate us to take children seriously... a. For parents: how important to bring your child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! b. For teachers: How serious and noble is your task of teaching our children! c. For all of us: We are examples and role models, whether good or bad...and God will hold us accountable for the effect we have on them! 2. And for those who would enter the kingdom... a. Heed the necessity of being converted! b. Let the example of child-like trust and humility be a guide as to how we should serve God and one another! Have you humbled yourself in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ?
"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" They Beheld His Majesty (17:1-9) INTRODUCTION 1. What a blessing it must have been, spending time with Christ during His earthly ministry... a. To hear His teaching, spoken with the voice of authority - Mt 7: 28-29 b. To witness His miracles, which manifested His glory - Jn 2:11 2. Among those blessed to be with Jesus, three men especially so: Peter, James and John... a. They accompanied Jesus on the mount of transfiguration - Mt 17: 1-2 b. Peter would later write of that experience on the mount - 2Pe 1: 16-18 1) He says they were "eyewitnesses of His majesty" 2) That Jesus received "honor and glory" from God the Father -- What an experience this must have been for these three fishermen from Galilee! 3. The setting that led up to this event was as follows... a. Jesus had just made two amazing statements: 1) He would come in glory and reward each one according to his works - Mt 16:27 2) As supporting evidence, some would not taste death before they saw... a) "the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" - Mt 16:28 b) "the kingdom of God come with power" - Mk 9:1 c) "the kingdom of God" - Lk 9:27 b. The gospel writers then connect these sayings with the event about to occur: 1) Matthew and Mark record "and after six days..." - Mk 17:1; Mk 9:2 2) Luke writes "about eight days" ("the Jewish equivalent of `about a week later'." - Wiersbe) - Lk 9:28 3) Luke adds "after these sayings", clearly tying the event to what had just been said [What happened on the mount? Simply put, "They Beheld His Majesty". What was the significance of this event? To answer this question, let's take a closer look and note first of all..] I. THEY BEHELD THE MAJESTY OF HIS PERSON A. EVIDENCED BY HIS TRANSFIGURATION... 1. He was "transfigured" - Mt 17:2; Mk 9:2 a. Gr.., metamorphoo, met-am-or-fo'-o b. Meaning to change, transfigure, transform 2. This change affected His face and clothing a. His face shone like the sun - Mt 17:2 (Luke says the appearance of His face was altered - Lk 9:29) b. His clothes became as white as the light - Mt 17:2 1) Shining, exceedingly white, like snow, more than any launderer can whiten them - Mk 9:3 2) White and glistening - Lk 9:29 -- Peter later wrote that what he saw was His "majesty" (2Pe 1: 16); the effulgence of His glory likely represented His deity as the Son of God - cf. He 1:1-3 B. EVIDENCED BY THE PRESENCE OF MOSES AND ELIJAH... 1. They were talking with Jesus - Mt 17:3; Mk 9:4 a. They also appeared in glory - Lk 9:31a b. Discussing with Jesus about His coming death in Jerusalem - Lk 9:31b c. Peter, James, and John had been sleeping, but awoke to see Jesus in His glory, and talking with Moses and Elijah - Lk 9:32 d. Moses and Elijah then began to depart - Lk 9:33 2. That Moses and Elijah would appear with Jesus was not lost on Peter - Mt 17:4 a. Moses and Elijah were the epitome of the Law and the Prophets b. Peter wanted to build three tabernacles, one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah -- Jesus had evidently been elevated to the same level as Moses and Elijah in Peter's mind! [But Peter was soon to learn that Jesus was above Moses and Elijah, especially in regards to His authority! As we continue, therefore, we note that...] II. THEY BEHELD THE MAJESTY OF HIS COMING KINGDOM A. EVIDENCED BY THE VOICE FROM HEAVEN... 1. While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them - Mt 17:5 2. Peter, James, and John, fearfully entered the cloud - Lk 9:34 3. A voice came out of the cloud: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, Hear Him!" - Mt 17:5; cf. 3:16-17 a. This terrified the disciples - Mt 17:6 b. Jesus then sought to comfort them - Mt 17:7 4. The command, "Hear Him!"... a. Implies that God would begin to speak through His Son, not the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) - cf. He 1:1-2 b. That the rule and reign of God would be exercised through His Son, as He would be given all authority in heaven and earth - cf. Mt 28:18 5. Of course, this rule and reign (i.e., Christ's kingdom) would begin after Christ suffered (i.e., His death) and entered into glory (i.e., His ascension) - cf. Lk 24:26 a. Which explains why He told them to tell no one the vision until after His resurrection - Mt 17:9 b. What they had witnessed was a foretaste, a foreshadowing of His coming glory and rule in His kingdom! B. EVIDENCED BY THE ABSENCE OF MOSES AND ELIJAH... 1. After hearing the voice, and lifting up their eyes, only Jesus was present - Mt 17:8; Mk 9:8 2. Perhaps symbolizing what the voice clearly declared: that Jesus was the one they were to hear, not Moses and Elijah who likely represented the Law and the Prophets CONCLUSION 1. Truly "They Beheld His Majesty"... a. They beheld the majesty of His person 1) Transfigured before them 2) Exalted even above Moses and Elijah b. They beheld the majesty of His coming kingdom 1) Acknowledged from heaven as God's beloved Son 2) The One whom all should heed, for all authority would be given to Him 2. What is the significance of this event? a. It may be the fulfillment Jesus' statement recorded in Mt 16:28; Mk 9:1; Lk 9:27 1) That some would see the Son of Man "coming" in His kingdom 2) That some would see the kingdom of God "present" with power 3) That some would see the kingdom of God (i.e., His rule or reign) b. If such is the case, what they saw was a foretaste of His kingdom or rule... 1) Which would not be fully exercised until after His death and resurrection - cf. Ep 1:20-23; 1Pe 3:22 2) Which would include that day in which He will judge the world! - cf. Ac 17:30-31; Mt 16:27 3. In any case, all of the events at the mount contributed to giving Jesus what Peter later described as "honor" and "glory" from the Father - 2Pe 1:17 a. The glorious transfiguration of Christ b. The presence (and their subsequent absence) of Moses and Elijah c. The voice from heaven, acknowledging Christ as God's Son 4. What does God desire of us today? a. Not tabernacles or temples erected in the memory of His Son b. But for us to simply obey what God said at the mount: "Hear Him!" If we desire to add to the honor and glory that Jesus so richly deserves, and to one day behold His majesty in heaven, then let be careful to heed what He himself said regarding His authority: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Mt 28:18-20
Jesus, Rudely Interrupted
|by||Dewayne Bryant, M.A.|
Criticism of the Faith is nothing new. Whether big-budget documentaries, bestselling books, or blockbuster movies, the media is glutted with criticism aiming to overturn the faith of millions. It seems that every year a new angle emerges during the seasons when people step back to reflect upon their faith. As believers consider the truths of Christianity, hostile criticism attempts to revamp, revise, and rewrite what Christians have believed for two millennia. Christmas and Easter are perennial target release dates for books, articles, and television documentaries promising to reveal secrets that will turn Christianity upside down.
One of the most recent contributions of New Testament scholar and textual critic Bart Ehrman is a book entitled, Jesus, Interrupted. Released in 2009, this book picks up where his earlier work, Misquoting Jesus, leaves off. Ehrman continues his assault on the Christian Faith, assuring believers that his criticism does not controvert Christianity, but informs it. Since this information started him on the journey to agnosticism, it is easy to see how his assertions could be construed as disingenuous.
PARDON THE INTERRUPTION
It is mystifying however why he would attempt to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted which frankly reflect [sic] no in-depth interaction at all with exegetes, theologians, and even most historians of the NT period of whatever faith or no faith at all. A quick perusal of the footnotes to this book, reveals mostly cross-references to Ehrman’s earlier popular works, with a few exceptions sprinkled in.... What is especially telling and odd about this is Bart does not much reflect a knowledge of the exegetical or historical study of the text in the last thirty years. Even in a work of this sort, we would expect some good up to date bibliography for those disposed to do further study, not merely copious cross-references to one’s other popular level books.... The impression is left, even if untrue, that Ehrman’s actual knowledge of and interaction with NT historians, exegetes, and theologians has been and is superficial and this has led to overly tendentious and superficial analysis (2009, emp. added).Ehrman spends a great deal of time demonstrating what he considers to be problems with the gospel accounts. The discussion includes the nature of authorship, supposed inconsistencies and contradictions, and the idea that the gospel accounts present different accounts of events in Christ’s life. This includes the assertion that no one knows who wrote the gospel records. It was not Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as tradition claims, because Jesus’ disciples consisted of “[l]ower-class, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking peasants from Galilee” (2009, p. 106). Someone else far removed from the original historical setting must have written them.
Ehrman overplays the old chestnut that the gospel accounts were written anonymously. They are considered formally anonymous because none ever identifies their author. John’s gospel account gives the “Beloved Disciple” as the one responsible for its writing, and many believe that Mark mentions himself as the young man who runs away while Jesus is arrested (cf. Mark 14:51). Authors in the ancient world often referred to themselves indirectly in their work, and this is as close as any of the gospel accounts come to identifying their authors.
While the evangelists did not sign their work, this is a far cry from not knowing who wrote the gospel accounts. There was virtually no dispute in the early church over who wrote each one. If they had truly been written anonymously, there would be no end to the debate. In one sense we could compare the book of Hebrews to the gospel accounts. Like the gospel records, it, too, is formally anonymous. However, no one really knows who wrote it, and no less than a half dozen possibilities are cited as potential authors. If the gospel accounts were truly in the same category, the debate over their authorship would have continued to the present.
Ehrman notes that, “[s]tories were changed with what would strike us today as reckless abandon.... They were modified, amplified, and embellished. And sometimes they were made up” (2006, p. 259). He never explains why he chooses to believe that the stories concerning Jesus are legendary or fictitious. Biography, legend, and fiction are different genres, each with its own distinguishing characteristics. This is common fare for Christianity’s critics: to announce the Bible as fiction, legend, myth, or fairy tale without justification or supporting evidence. Ehrman notes:
For nearly twenty-five years now I have taught courses on the New Testament in universities, mainly Rutgers and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In all this time, the lesson that I have found most difficult to convey to students—the lesson that is the hardest to convince them of—is the historical-critical claim that each author of the Bible needs to be allowed to have his own say, since in many instances what one author has to say on a subject is not what another says. Sometimes the differences are a matter of stress and emphasis; sometimes they are discrepancies in different narratives or between different writers’ thoughts; and sometimes these discrepancies are quite large, affecting not only the small details of the text but the very big issues that these authors were addressing (2009, pp. 98-99).One of the episodes Ehrman cites as a bona fide “error” in the gospel records is Christ’s cleansing of the Temple. John locates this event in the Passion Week, while the Synoptics present the incident early in Jesus’ ministry. So which is it? Which one made the mistake? Actually, it never would have crossed the minds of the ancient audience. The ancients did not insist on chronological accuracy in the same way moderns do. Ancient authors often arranged their material chronologically, but they also arranged it topically, and, in the case of the gospel accounts, theologically. To force an ancient work written in another culture to conform to modern Western standards is scholastic arrogance at its worst.
Many moderns put the Bible under a literary microscope, analyzing every chapter, every verse, every word. In the eyes of hostile critics, even the tiniest difficulties balloon into monumental testaments to the inaccuracy and unreliability of the Bible. Ben Witherington makes an interesting point in this regard. He says that we can think of the authors of the four gospel accounts much like painters. Each painted a portrait of Jesus based on his own perspective, as well as the purpose and rationale intended by the Holy Spirit. They selected the material to include in their work, a selectivity that is individualistic in nature. That the gospel writers would highlight different events, or give different angles on the same events, is expected. Modern biographers work the same way. Critics expect the authors to record the life of Jesus with a high-resolution, all-seeing lens. Rather than holding the biblical books to the same standards in use during the time they were produced, critics insist on modern standards in a way that is as unreasonable as it is irrational. To force the ancient text to conform to modern standards is bad interpretive method. It is a fundamental building block of reading ancient literature—the Bible included, of course—that one must seek to understand the context in which the literature is written. One cannot read ancient Greco-Roman literature by modern standards any more than one should read a modern newspaper with the same frame of mind as a citizen of ancient Rome. To continue Witherington’s analogy, this would be like criticizing Leonardo Da Vinci for not using a digital camera to photograph the Mona Lisa.
To point out one supposed contradiction highlighted in Jesus, Interrupted, Ehrman argues there is an irreconcilable difference concerning the death of Judas as recorded in Matthew and Acts. Matthew says that Judas hanged himself and the place became known as the Field of Blood because it was purchased with blood money (Matthew 27:3-9). In Acts, Luke claims that the Field of Blood is called that because, as Ehrman puts it, Judas burst open and bled all over the place. The reading in Acts is not as different as Ehrman suggests. Both accounts agree that the property is purchased with Judas’ money. Luke is ambiguous as to why the field was named the Field of Blood, while Matthew is explicit. Ehrman barely gives a passing nod to suggested attempts to reconcile the two, and downplays them accordingly. It is highly likely that Judas hanged himself, and after death, when the immune system is no longer working, bacteria began to multiply and produced gases that bloated Judas’ body. If the rope broke or Judas’ body fell when others were taking him down, Judas’ body would have ruptured upon striking the ground. This is not imaginative speculation, but the practical stuff of elementary biology.
Another problem in Jesus, Interrupted is the absence of comparative data concerning manuscript evidence from other ancient sources. Other Greco-Roman sources ranging from Greek philosophers to Roman government officials demonstrate far less attestation than the New Testament. The average classical author may have a work represented in only a couple of dozen manuscripts. The oldest copy of these works is often many centuries after the original date of writing. For instance, in the cases of Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle, their most famous works are represented by a handful of manuscripts dating to the medieval period. Comparing the New Testament to these writings, the Bible has well over 5,700 copies. Roughly a dozen date to within a century of the original authors, and about four dozen exist that date to within two centuries. The earliest copy of a New Testament text is P52, otherwise known as the John Rylands papyrus. Housed in the British Library, this fragment of John’s Gospel dates to approximately A.D. 115-135. The contrast between the textual evidence of the New Testament and the manuscript evidence from the classical world could not be more vivid. The noted historian F.F. Bruce recounts the words of Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director of the British Museum: “The interval between the dates of the original composition and the earliest extant evidence [is] so small as to be negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed” (Bruce, 1972, p. 20).
THE OTHER SINS OF EHRMAN
The assertion that no references to Jesus and His followers exist in the first century has one important qualification that Ehrman seems to have omitted deliberately. While there are no extant references to them known to scholars today, Suetonius and Tacitus would have needed historical records or official documents in order to produce their biographies of the Roman emperors. While these documents no longer exist today, first-century records seem to have been readily available to historians. In other words, these documents did exist, but have perished with the passing of time. Ehrman’s rather misleading statement should have read, “there are no surviving references to Jesus or his followers in strictly pagan literature during the first century A.D. known to scholars presently.”
New Testament scholar Robert Yarbrough points out in Ehrman’s work the “traditions of (much later) noncanonical gospels are consistently privileged vis-à-vis their canonical counterparts; the assumption is that we must treat their assertions as potential historical fact even though the assertions were not written down for a century, at least, after their putative origin” (2000, p. 366). Ehrman tends to elevate the non-canonical gospel records over those of the New Testament even though they were written centuries after the life of Christ. The constant claim that the gospel accounts cannot be trusted because they were written decades later than the events they describe vanishes, and the non-canonical gospels are considered relatively trustworthy despite the fact that the amount of time that separates them from the events they purport to describe is not decades as with the gospel accounts, but centuries.
As an example of his approach, Ehrman notes that the Gospel of Peter features “[a] giant Jesus and a walking, talking cross,” adding, “It’s hard to believe that this Gospel was ever lost” (2009, p. 209). He seems to think that Christianity was like any other religion, accepting the fantastic with little regard for reality. Many of the extracanonical gospels Ehrman prizes demonstrate the same features. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas has a number of odd miracle stories. The author appears to enjoy telling fantastic stories of weird happenings during the fictional childhood of Jesus, and the more bizarre the better. This provides a vivid contrast with the canonical gospel accounts, which record the happenings of Jesus’ life in sober fashion. It should be no wonder why the Christians dismissed the tall tales of gospels like Peter and Thomas. They preferred believable biographies to other “gospels” that were the ancient equivalent of science fiction.
THE HERMENEUTIC OF SUSPICION
For Ehrman, the ultimate reason why more people do not know about these supposed contradictions is because the population is largely ignorant—the very problem he seeks to remedy. In his view, scholarship has not written popular-level books, and seminary-trained ministers are unwilling to share this information with their church members. When discussing his view that most of the New Testament books were not written by the actual authors, he asks with incredulity, “why isn’t this more widely known? Why is it that the person in the pew—not to mention the person in the street—knows nothing about this? Your guess is as good as mine” (2009, p. 137). It never seems to cross his mind that seminary-trained ministers and biblical scholars who know about these views find that they fail to agree with the evidence.
Yarbrough makes a powerful point about the cavalier attitude Ehrman takes toward the biblical text: “the early Christians who supposedly invented stories about Jesus...and then believed them were not deconstructionists engaged in teaching careers in comfortable university positions but tradesmen and professionals who knew the daily struggle for survival and were willing to die for their convictions” (2000, p. 370). For those living in the first century, the Christian faith was not a detached system of belief that could be adopted or discarded without consequence. Mistrust, discrimination, and even persecution ever loomed above the heads of the early Christians. Making the choice to follow Christ was a genuine commitment that had real—and often highly unpleasant—consequences.
The reader of Jesus, Interrupted must be careful to sort through Ehrman’s arguments. He is an accomplished textual critic, but allows preconceptions and personal bias to color his conclusions. Rarely, if ever, does Ehrman engage the opposing viewpoint. He seems to delight in manufacturing biblical contradictions and then refuses to allow them to be solved. His work makes it seem as if he has uncovered a secret hoard of biblical knowledge previously denied to all others. To those who are academically equipped to evaluate the truthfulness of Ehrman’s claims, this treasure trove of trade secrets is nothing more than fool’s gold.
Ehrman, Bart (2005), Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (San Francisco: HarperSanFransicso).
Ehrman, Bart (2006), Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene: The Followers of Jesus in History and Legend (New York: Oxford University Press).
Ehrman, Bart (2008), The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (New York: Oxford University Press).
Ehrman, Bart (2009), Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York: HarperOne).
Witherington, Ben (2009), “Bart Interrupted—A Detailed Analysis of ‘Jesus Interrupted’ Part 1,” [On-line], URL: http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2009/04/bart-interrupted-detailed-analysis-of.html.
Yarbrough, Robert (2000), “The Power and Pathos of Professor Ehrman’s New Testament Introduction,” Perspectives in Religions Studies, Winter, 27:363-370.
God’s Longsuffering is Not Eternal
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
One of God’s most encouraging attributes is His longsuffering. The merciful patience of God Almighty gives His redeemed, albeit imperfect, church hope and support. Immediately following a reminder to the Christians in Rome that the Old Testament was “written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope,” Paul referred to God as “the God of patience and comfort” (Romans 15:4-5). Throughout the Old Testament, Bible writers portrayed God as longsuffering (meaning, “to suffer long with”), especially in His dealings with the Israelites, who constantly rejected His guidance (cf. Numbers 13-14; 16; 21:4-9). Jesus and the New Testament apostles and prophets also spent ample time magnifying God’s merciful patience (cf. Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20). The apostle Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise [of Jesus’ Second Coming], as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emp. added).
Unfortunately, the picture of God often painted in the 21st century seems to leave the impression that God’s longsuffering will go on forever. Portraits of God’s justice and vengeance often are neglected (Hebrews 10:26-39; Romans 12:19), while His compassionate patience toward sinners is so accentuated that God’s longsuffering is transformed into an eternal patience. Such a concept, however, stands in stark contradistinction to God’s revealed will.
The fact is, God will judge the world one day (Acts 17:30-31), and He will take “vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). His longsuffering is not an “eternal” suffering. The ungodly people of Noah’s day learned this point. God delayed His destruction of the world by water for many years (perhaps as many as 120 years; cf. Genesis 6:3) while Noah preached righteousness to them (2 Peter 2:5). Eventually, however, God’s longsuffering came to an end. Centuries later, God again revealed His mercy and longsuffering when He conversed with Abraham about Sodom and Gomorrah. Six times Abraham petitioned God not to destroy Sodom (Genesis 18:23-33), and six times God agreed to spare the city from His vengeance, even if as few as ten righteous people were found therein.
Time and again, God has dealt patiently with sinful mankind. Yet, we must recognize that God’s longsuffering with sinners eventually ends. It ended in the days of Noah. It ended for Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abraham. And, it eventually will end for all the unfaithful when Jesus returns (2 Peter 3:10). God most certainly is longsuffering, but such forbearance with wayward saints and alien sinners will end one day. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:13).
Examining the “Husband of One Wife” Qualification for Elders
|by||Kyle Butt, M.Div.|
The leadership structure of the Lord’s church is spelled out in the pages of the New Testament. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23), which He purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). In particular localities where congregations of the Lord’s church meet, the inspired text explains that leaders who are called shepherds (or pastors), elders, or bishops are to direct the activities of each individual congregation (Acts 20:17; Titus 1:5; 1 Peter 5:1-4). These terms are used interchangeably to describe the same position of leadership in the local church (Lewis, 1985, p. 14). The multiple terms are used in order to provide a complete picture of what these leaders are to do and be.
In addition, the New Testament provides consistent teaching that each local congregation should strive to maintain a plurality of elders/pastors/bishops. As the late Bible scholar J.W. McGarvey once wrote: “There is no proposition in reference to the organization of the primitive churches upon which scholars and critics are more perfectly agreed than that every fully organized church had a plurality of Elders” (1950, pp. 66-67). McGarvey went on to correctly conclude that there is New Testament authority and example for only a plurality of elders, and no authority for a singular pastor or bishop to rule an entire congregation or group of congregations.
If a plurality of men should be established as the overseers of any given congregation, what qualities or characteristics should these men possess that would enable them to fulfill their duties? Thankfully, the Lord, through the inspired New Testament, has not left us to guess what traits are needed for such a position. There are two very clear lists of qualities that elders should possess in order for them to be appointed to the eldership—1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. It is understood that biblical passages are often complimentary, in which certain passages include additional, supplemental information. With that in view, we will consider these two lists as complimentary, and therefore as one “master” list of the qualities that every elder should maintain.
An exhaustive study of every one of the qualifications for elders is outside of the purview of this article. Additionally, some of the qualifications are so self-explanatory, they call for little (if any) discussion. For instance, in Titus 1:7 we read that one who aspires to be an elder should not be “violent.” The meaning of that term is unambiguous. It simply means that an elder should not be a person who flies into violent fits of rage in which people are physically abused. Again, in the same verse we are told that an elder is not supposed to be “greedy for money.” A simple dictionary definition for the word “greedy” quickly renders this qualification quite easy to understand.
Not all the qualities prescribed for elders, however, are as self-explanatory as the two just mentioned. In fact, there are several that have been at the heart of many heated discussions. One that has often been discussed, and is viewed by many as being difficult to understand, is the injunction that an elder must be “the husband of one wife” (Titus 1:6; 1 Timothy 3:2). It is to this qualification that we will direct our attention.
THE HUSBAND OF ONE WIFEWhat does the statement that a bishop/elder/pastor must be the “husband of one wife” mean? Just reading this phrase in any standard English translation certainly leads to some ambiguity. Does it mean that he is only supposed to be married to one wife for his entire life? Does it mean that he is not to be married to two wives at once? If he was married to one wife when he was appointed an elder, but she dies, is he still the “husband of one wife”? If his wife dies and he marries another woman, is he now the husband of two wives? Does it really mean that a man must be married at all, or could it just mean that if he has a wife, he must only have one? Does this injunction mean that women are disqualified from the eldership? These are some of the most often asked questions pertaining to this particular qualification. In order to answer them, we will need to see if the original language clears up any ambiguity that might have arisen through translation.
In Greek, the phrase is mias gunaikos andra. Vincent, in his word study, translates it as “the husband of one wife” (1886, 4:228). R.H. Lenski translates the phrase as “one wife’s husband” (1998, pp. 579-580). William D. Mounce renders the words “‘one-woman’ man” (2000, 46:156). And C. Michael Moss translates it as the “‘husband of but one wife’ (literally ‘one woman’s man’)” (1994, pp. 69-70). What we see, then, is that the original language does not elucidate the phrase as much as we might like. In essence, it leaves us with the same ambiguities as the simple English renderings of the term. Thus, in order to gain a firmer grasp on the concept, we must think through the available options.
Must a Bishop/Elder/Pastor Be Married?A host of scholarly commentators who have written about 1 Timothy 3:2 have concluded that the phrase “husband of one wife” does not mean that an elder must be married. They contend that the term simply means that if a man is married, then he should exhibit marital fidelity, be faithful to his spouse, and not be polygamous. There are a number of reasons such writers give for arguing that marriage is not a requirement for being a bishop. First, they believe that since Paul was not married, he would not have inserted a qualification that would exclude himself. Mounce summarized well this viewpoint when he wrote: “But the list is not a checklist requiring, for example, that all church leaders be married and have more than one child. Paul and Timothy were not married, nor did they have families (as far as we know), so neither of them could be a “one-woman” man or manage his household well” (2000, 46:156-159). Second, many of these writers believe that women should not be excluded from the eldership.
Those who believe that being the “husband of one wife” (i.e. married) is not a requirement often insist that what is being discussed is the personality and character of the individual, not the life circumstances in which the person finds himself. Thus, these writers argue that the text is simply saying that the proposed candidate for the eldership should have a character that he or she would remain faithful to one spouse. If the candidate’s character appears to be one of fidelity, whether or not the proposed elder actually is married to one wife is of no consequence. This interpretation of the “husband of one wife” is flawed for a number of reasons.
First, we must understand that life circumstances do dictate whether or not a person is eligible to be an elder or bishop. One of the qualifications for an elder is that he is not “a novice” (1 Timothy 3:1), or new Christian. Is it the case that a new Christian might be a very spiritual person? Certainly. Could it be that a new Christian may have an evangelistic attitude, have a close relationship to the Lord, and be walking in the light? Absolutely. Is there anything about the character of a “novice” that inherently excludes him from the eldership? No, there is nothing about his character that would keep him from being an elder. The only thing that keeps such a person from being appointed to the eldership is the fact that he is a recent convert. His life circumstance is such that he is not qualified to be an elder. He is not less valuable to the church. Neither is a novice less spiritual, less evangelistic, or of a lesser moral character than one who is qualified to be an elder. The only reason he is not qualified to be an elder is that God has stated that new converts are not to be appointed to the eldership.
Furthermore, the idea that Paul would not include a requirement to be an elder that would exclude himself carries no weight for a number of reasons. First, Paul interacted with various elders during his ministry (Acts 20:17, Philippians 1:1). He and Timothy wrote to the elders and deacons of the Philippian church (Philippians 1:1). And he instructed both Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) in the way to appoint bishops/elders/pastors. Yet throughout the text, Paul never refers to himself as one who is in the “office” of bishop/pastor/elder. This realization is telling, in light of the fact that we know Paul was not married (1 Corinthians 7:6-9). On the other hand, we see the apostle Peter speaking to the elders of the church, and stating that he was a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 5:1). Since we know that Peter was married and had a mother-in-law (Mark 1:30), this would fit perfectly with the idea that the “husband of one wife” qualification for elders was mandatory. As J.W. McGarvey so clearly stated:
It has been urged as an objection to this conclusion, that it would disqualify Paul himself, and Barnabas and Timothy for the office of Elder although they held offices or positions of much greater responsibility. But this objection can have no force, unless it be made to appear that these brethren were qualified for the Elder’s office, or that the qualifications of an Apostle or an Evangelist include those of an Elder. Neither of the two, however, can be made to appear, and therefore the objection has no force whatever. Indeed, it seems most fitting that men whose chief work led them from city to city and nation to nation, through all kinds of danger and hardship, should be freed from the care of a family, and equally fitting that the shepherd, whose work was always at home and in the midst of the families of his flock, should be a man of family. A married man certainly possesses advantages for such work that are impossible to an unmarried man, and the experience of the world must confirm the wisdom requirement that the overseer shall be the husband of one wife (1950, p. 57).Furthermore, to conclude that a person does not have to be the husband of one wife in order to be an elder ignores a very straightforward statement found in the context. When Paul wrote to Timothy, he stated: “A bishop then must be…” (1 Timothy 3:2). The phrase “must be” is a mandate that requires all those who aspire to become bishops to maintain the circumstances and characteristics that follow the phrase. The Greek word translated here is dei, which means “it is necessary, one must, or has to” (Glasscock, 1983, 140:245). Surely no one would contend that a man could be appointed as a bishop if he is greedy for money. None would be so careless as to suggest that a person who is violent could be appointed as an elder. Who would contend that a novice be appointed to the eldership? None. And yet each of these qualifications follows the phrase “must be” just as surely as “the husband of one wife.” All of the qualifications that follow “must be” are of equal value and importance and not one of them can be lacking from a prospective candidate for the eldership. The text plainly states that a bishop “must be…the husband of one wife.” To conclude that a bishop does not need to be the husband of one wife is to ignore a clearly worded inspired injunction.
In addition, numerous writers contend that “the husband of one wife” would be better rendered as something like “a one-woman sort of man” or “a man who has the character of fidelity to one woman if he were married” (Glasscock, 140:249-252). Thus, many of them suggest that men or women could be considered for the position of elder if they have a personality of fidelity even if they are not married. A flaw of this thinking is simply that a congregation would have to assume something about a person that there is no possible way of knowing unless the person were actually placed in that exact position. How in the world could it be verified that a person would be faithful to a spouse if that person is not married? In truth, there is no way to know, other than watching the person exhibit such faithfulness in an actual marriage.
To illustrate, suppose that the text stated that any candidate for the eldership must be “one who has taken a beating for Christ without recanting his faith.” If modern scholars were to “characterize” this qualification, they would assert that it means, not that he has been beaten, but if he were to be beaten, he would remain faithful to God. Yet to attribute to a person what he would do in a situation that he has never been in goes far beyond the capacity of human knowledge. Thus, to claim that a person is “a one-woman man,” without having seen that person remain faithful to a spouse, is claiming knowledge that no person can have. We can only know for sure if a man is a “one-woman” man if he has proven it in the testing ground of marriage. To borrow and modify a phrase from the inspired author, James, “show me your marital fidelity without being married, and I will show you my marital faithfulness by being married and remaining faithful.”
Can Women Be Elders/Pastors/Bishops?A number of scholars contend that demanding that “the husband of one wife” is literal would disqualify all women from the position of elder. They contend that God would not allow men to attain a leadership position that is not also available for women. Thus they insist that the statement “the husband of one wife” cannot be taken literally.
From a general analysis of the inspired writings of Paul, one can see that he certainly was not sexist or gender biased. In fact, Paul penned one of the boldest statements of gender and race equality in all religious literature. In Galatians 3:28, he wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” About this verse, Jan Faver Hailey wrote: “Common exegesis understands Paul here to be advocating that access to God is open to all through faith in Christ, without regard to race, social standing, or gender” (1993, 1:132).
While Paul consistently maintained that men and women are equal in God’s sight, he insisted they have been given different duties and roles. Many religious people mistakenly equate the concept of different roles, with the idea of different status or worth. Even skeptics have falsely assumed such. Atheist Charles Templeton wrote: “In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul states unequivocally that men and women have a different status before God” (1996, p. 186). Allegedly, if Paul instructs men to be elders (Titus 1:5-9) and to lead publically in worship (1 Corinthians 14:34-35; 1 Timothy 2:8-15), and husbands to be the “head” of their homes (Ephesians 5:22-24), then he must view women as less able, less valuable, or inferior to men. [NOTE: See Jackson, 2010 and Miller, 2005 for biblical expositions of these verses.]
Is it true that since the Bible assigns different roles to males and females, their status or worth must be unequal? Certainly not. In Titus 3:1, Paul explained to Titus that Christians were supposed to be subject to rulers and authorities and to obey the government. From that statement, is it correct to conclude that Paul views all those in governmental positions to be of more value than Christians? Does this passage imply that, because Christians are to obey other humans who are in governmental positions, Paul sees those in governmental positions as mentally, physically, or spiritually superior to Christians? Not in any way. The mere fact that Christians are to obey those in the government says nothing about the spiritual status or value of either party. It only addresses the different roles that each party fulfills.
Again, in 1 Timothy 6:2, Paul instructs Christian servants to be obedient to their own masters. Does this imply that Paul believed masters to be superior, or to be of more inherent worth than servants? No. It simply shows a difference in roles, not of status. Logically speaking, different roles can never be used to support an accusation that such roles imply different value or status. In Ephesians 6:1-2, Paul instructs children to obey and honor their parents. Does this mean that children are of less worth or value than their parents? This can hardly be the case, especially considering that Jesus described those in the kingdom of heaven as being like little children (Matthew 19:14), commanding His audience to be “converted and become as little children” (Matthew 18:3) in order to be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Furthermore, while many are quick to seize on Paul’s alleged sexism in his ordination of men as elders and leaders in their homes, those writers often neglect to include the responsibilities involved in such roles. Husbands are called upon to give their lives for their wives (Ephesian 5:25), physically provide food, shelter, and clothing for their families (1 Timothy 5:8), and to love their wives as much as they love themselves (Ephesians 5:25). While much is said about the “unfairness” of Paul’s instructions, it is productive to ask who would get the last seat on a life boat if a Christian husband and wife were on a sinking ship? The Christian husband gives himself for his wife in such instances. Is that fair that he is called upon to accept the sacrificial role of giving himself for his wife? Is she more valuable than he because God calls upon him to protect and cherish her and die for her if necessary? No. It is simply a difference is assigned roles, not in status or worth. Thus, one must conclude that to establish elders/bishops/pastors as men, each of which is the “husband of one wife,” does not imply gender bias or unfairness. It simply denotes a circumstance that must avail in the life of a person who is eligible to be an elder.
Polygamy, Bigamy, and “the Husband of One Wife”A number of writers have concluded that the phrase “the husband of one wife” means that the man in view is not a bigamist or polygamist, but is married to “only” one wife. They stress that the force of the instruction lies on the concept of “only” one and not multiple wives. In considering this view, Michael Moss wrote: “Since polygamy was only infrequently practiced in the Greco-Roman world of the first century, is seems very unlikely that Paul would write to condemn a practice among overseers that would not be practiced even among Christians outside the leadership” (1994, pp. 69-70).It would seem prudent to argue, then, that the phrase is not inserted solely to exclude polygamists or bigamists from the eldership. To clarify, however, the condition would exclude polygamists, but would carry as much positive force for a man to be married to one wife as it would negative force not to have more than one. As McGarvey stated: “That he should be the husband of one wife, forbids having less than one as clearly as it forbids having more than one” (p. 56).
Only One Wife His Whole Life?We have established, then, that the candidate for the eldership must be a man who is literally “the husband of one wife.” Our work is not done, however, because questions still remain concerning the qualification. Does “the husband of one wife” mean that the candidate must currently be married to the only wife that he has had his entire life? If his wife dies and he remains single, is he still the “husband of one wife,” since he was only married to one woman in his life? Or, if his wife dies and he remarries is he no longer the “husband of one wife,” since he has now been married twice to two different women?
First, let us state that the most ideal situation is one in which a man has been married to one woman for his whole life and they are still together during the time of his eldership. This situation would meet every conceivable challenge of the phrase “the husband of one wife.” Of course, stating the ideal does not exclude other possibilities that might be less than ideal but still potentially viable.
Let us then deal with the situation in which a man has been married, his spouse has died, and he is currently in his second marriage. Is this man a candidate for the eldership? Those who suggest that he is not, often refer to 1 Timothy 5:9 where Paul discussed widows who were to be “taken into the number” of the church. In that verse, Paul stated that only a widow who “has been the wife of one man” should be taken in. In light of this, some believe that having only been married to one person in one’s life has some type of spiritual significance, or at least offers a person some type of life circumstance that would be desirable for one who is an elder. Such an understanding seems to leave something to be desired based on the actual wording of 1 Timothy 3:2.
The qualification in 1 Timothy 3:2 states that a bishop “must be” in the present tense. The Greek words dei and eivai combine to form the “must” and “be” so that each of the qualifications is one that must at the present be a part of the potential elder’s life or character. For instance, it would do no good to have an elder who at one time was hospitable, but is no longer such. Nor would it behoove a congregation to have an elder who in the past was able to teach, but currently is not able to do so. Ironically, the present tense force is conspicuously absent from 1 Timothy 5:9, and a widow could not be taken into the number of the church if she was married to a man who was living (for she would not be a widow). Yet the ideal for an elder is for him to be currently married. Thus, it seems an unnatural and tenuous stretch to force the “parallel” between 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 5:9 to mean that an elder cannot be remarried after the death of a spouse. As Glasscock wrote: “First Timothy 3:2 does not say ‘an elder must be married only once’ nor does it say ‘an elder cannot remarry’” (140:247). He further stated that if Paul had wanted to insist that an elder must be married to one woman his whole life, the inspired writer could have written, “having had only one wife.” Since Paul did not make such a statement when it was in his power to do so, it goes beyond the bounds of the phrase “the husband of one wife” to insist that it means “having had only one wife” (140:247).
An understanding of the biblical teaching of marriage adds weight to the idea that a man can be qualified for the eldership, even if he has been married after the death of a spouse. In 1 Corinthians 7:39, Paul stated: “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives, but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” Marriage is a covenant that holds sway only as long as a person lives on this Earth in a physical, mortal body. Once a person’s spouse dies, he or she is no longer married to that person.
Jesus elucidated this fact in His discussion with the Sadducees. This particular Jewish sect did not believe in the resurrection of the soul. In order to trap Jesus, the Sadducees concocted a situation which they thought rendered the idea of the resurrection absurd. They presented to Jesus the situation in which a woman married a man, he died, so she married his brother. Subsequently, his brother died, and she married the third brother. Eventually, she lived through seven marriages to seven brothers and finally died. The Sadducees then asked Jesus, “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be? For they all had her” (Matthew 22:23-28). Jesus explained to the Sadducees that they did not understand the resurrection or the Scriptures. He stated that “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). From Jesus’ teachings, we learn that a marriage contracted on Earth has no force in the resurrection.
Thus, a person who was married to one wife on Earth, when she dies, is no longer married to that person. While she was his wife in the past, she cannot rightly be called his wife now, since the covenant of marriage is over at the point of the death of a spouse. Glasscock summarized this idea when he wrote: “Surely no one seriously believes that if a man’s wife dies that he is still bound to her in marriage; thus if he marries a second time, he still has only one wife, that is, he is truly still ‘the husband of one wife’” (140:247). As J.W. McGarvey stated: “It may be well to add that one living wife is clearly meant, and that there is no allusion to the number of deceased wives a man may have had. If my wife is dead, I am not now her husband” (1950, p. 57).
Therefore, if a man’s wife dies and he becomes a widower, the present tense force of being the “husband of one wife” would seem to exclude him from being qualified for the eldership. We must be careful to insist that such a situation does not make him any less of a Christian, any less spiritual, or any less valuable to the Lord’s cause. It simply is the case that a circumstance in his life has arisen that renders him no longer qualified to serve as an elder at a particular time. To illustrate further, suppose a man was an exceptional teacher, but was in a tragic accident and lost his voice and his ability to communicate his thoughts properly. Could it be that such an accident would render him unable to teach? Certainly. Since he is no longer “apt to teach,” and would most likely not be in the physical condition to serve as an elder, would it be the best course for him to no longer be an elder? Yes. Is he less valuable to God, less spiritual, or in any way less “Christian”? Absolutely not. It is simply the case that a circumstance in his life has rendered him unable to serve as an elder at a particular time in his life. The eldership is a functional role that requires a person to maintain the qualifications throughout the time of his tenure as an elder. On the other hand, if a widower were to remarry after the death of his wife (and the woman he remarried met the qualifications detailed for the wives of elders—1 Timothy 3:11), the present tense force of being the “husband of one wife” would allow him to be considered for the eldership.
Can a Man Who Has Been Divorced and Remarried Be an Elder?If a man who loses his spouse to death and remarries can be considered for the eldership, the natural question arises, “What about a man who is divorced and remarried?” If the phrase “the husband of one wife,” does not mean “having been married only once in his life,” that would seem to admit the possibility that a man who has been divorced and is remarried to “one wife” could be eligible. Before delving into this, let us restate the ideal. The perfect situation is one in which there is a man who has been married once to the same woman and she is living during the time he serves as an elder. Is it possible, however, that a divorced man who is remarried may still be an elder?
When we look to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, we see that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), and that in every divorce sin and selfishness on someone’s part lie at the heart of the broken marriage. When the Pharisees questioned Him about divorce, Christ explained that from the beginning of the human race, God instituted marriage to be between one man and one woman for life (Matthew 19:1-9). In the course of that discussion, Jesus noted that there is only one possible exception in which a person can divorce his wife lawfully in the sight of God. Jesus said: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexually immorality, and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). The sole exception that Jesus gave for dissolving a marriage in the eyes of God is if a person’s spouse has sexual intercourse with another besides his/her spouse. Jesus’ statement implies that if a man divorces his wife for sexual immorality, and he marries another person, he does not commit adultery by remarrying the second person. If a man can be married to a second wife (because he divorced his first wife due to sexual infidelity), and not be considered by God to be committing adultery, then it follows that God must (at least in the innocent party’s case) view the first marriage as dissolved and the covenant broken. Therefore, it would still be the case that a man who divorced his wife because of sexual infidelity and married another woman would/could be “the husband of one wife.”
It would appear logical that a man’s condition upon the death of a wife, or due to a divorce because of marital infidelity, would be the same, and a subsequent marriage would not disqualify him from being the “husband of one wife.” Robert Saucy aptly summarized the situation:
If divorce on the basis of adultery is legal and dissolves the marriage so that the one divorced can marry another, is the one remarried considered to be now “the husband of one wife”? It seems evident that legally such a remarried person is the husband of only one wife. He is not considered to have two wives. If this is true, then technically, he meets the requirements of the language of 1 Timothy (1974, 131:234).
An Additional ConsiderationWhen discussing such “technicalities,” as we have in this article, it is often easy to forget that we are dealing with situations that play out in the real world of human relationships. While it may be true that a person could be technically qualified for the position of an elder, it might also be true that those who he is contemplating leading would not consider him qualified for one reason or another. It may be the case that many members of a congregation believe that a man must have only had one wife his whole life in order to be qualified to be an elder. It might be that a significant number of the members believe that death would dissolve a marriage, but a divorced man could never be qualified as an elder. What is to be done in such situations? The various other character qualities prescribed for an elder in Titus and 1 Timothy would help a Christian man come to the best possible conclusion. Any man who is qualified to be an elder, who is hospitable, wise, experienced, sober-minded, and temperate, will certainly consider more than the “technicalities” of the qualifications for the eldership before he seeks such an appointment. A man who is qualified to be an elder will have, at the heart of any decision he makes, the unity and overall good of the congregation of which he is a part.
CONCLUSIONPaul states that an elder must be “the husband of one wife.” There are some aspects of this statement that are clearer than others. It can be determined that the phrase necessarily means that only men are to be considered for the office. The exclusion of women from the office of elder does not imply that men are of more value, or that women are less capable. It simply accords with the biblical teaching that men and women have different roles, not different status as Christians. In addition, the phrase “the husband of one wife” is a present tense statement that implies that a man should be currently married to one woman. The candidate for the eldership, about whom there is no question as it pertains to this one qualification, is a man who is currently married to the one and only woman who has ever been his wife, and they stay married throughout the duration of his eldership. A close look at the qualifications, however, would seem to indicate that a man who is remarried after the death of a spouse, or one who is remarried after a divorce caused by his wife’s sexual infidelity, is technically still viewed as the “husband of one wife.”
REFERENCESGlasscock, Ed (1983), “‘The Husband of One Wife’ Requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 140:244-258, July-September.
Hailey, Jan Faver (1993), “‘Neither Male and Female’ (Gal. 3:28),” Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity, ed. Carroll Osburn (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Jackson, Wayne (2010), “Women’s Role in the Church,” http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/169-womans-role-in-the-church.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1998), Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
Lewis, Jack P. (1985), Leadership Questions Confronting the Church (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
McGarvey, J.W. (1950), The Eldership (Murfreesboro, TN: Dehoff).
Miller, Dave (2005), “Female Leadership in the Church,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2694.
Mounce, William (2000), Pastoral Epistles (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson).
Moss, C. Michael (1994), 1, 2 Timothy & Titus (Joplin, MO: College Press).
Saucy, Robert (1974), “The Husband of One Wife,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 131:229-240, July.
Templeton, Charles (1996), Farewell to God (Ontario, Canada: McClelland and Stewart).
Vincent, Marvin (1886), Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson).
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
Imagine your mother asking you to do something for a neighbor, and you responding to her by saying, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?” If your mother is anything like mine, she probably would have given you “the look” (among other things) as she pondered how her son could be so rude. Responding to a mother’s (or any woman’s) request in twenty-first-century America with the refrain, “Woman…,” sounds impolite and offensive. Furthermore, a Christian, who is commanded to “honor” his “father and mother” (Ephesians 6:2), would be out of line in most situations when using such an expression while talking directly to his mother.
In light of the ill-mannered use of the word “woman” in certain contexts today, some question how Jesus could have spoken to His mother 2,000 years ago using this term without breaking the commandment to “[h]onor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12; cf. Matthew 15:4; Matthew 5:17-20). When Jesus, His disciples, and His mother were at the wedding in Cana of Galilee where there was a depletion of wine, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3). Jesus then responded to His mother, saying, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Notice what one skeptic has written regarding what Jesus said in this verse.
In Matt. 15:4 he [Jesus—EL] told people to “Honor thy father and thy mother”; yet, he was one of the first to ignore his own maxim by saying to his mother in John 2:4, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” (McKinsey, 1995, p. 44).As one can see, Mr. McKinsey is adamant that Jesus erred. He used such words to describe Jesus as disrespectful, insolent, unloving, and rude. Is he correct?
Imagine someone talking to his own mother is such a disrespectful manner and addressing her by such an impersonal noun as “woman.” Talk about an insolent offspring! (1995, p. 134).
Jesus needs to practice some parental respect… (2000, p. 251).
Apparently Jesus’ love escaped him (n.d., “Jesus…”).
Why was Jesus disrespectful of his mother? In John 2:4, Jesus uses the same words with his mother that demons use when they meet Jesus. Surely the son of God knew that Mary had the blessing of the Father, didn’t he, (and she was the mother of God—Ed.) not to mention the fact that the son of God would never be rude? (n.d., “Problems…”, parenthetical comment in orig.).
As with most Bible critics, Mr. McKinsey is guilty of judging Jesus’ words by what is common in twenty-first-century English vernacular, rather than putting Jesus’ comments in its proper first-century setting. It was not rude or inappropriate for a man in the first century to speak to a lady by saying, “Woman (gunai)….” This “was a highly respectful and affectionate mode of address” (Vincent, 1997) “with no idea of censure” (Robertson, 1932, p. 34). The New International Version correctly captures the meaning of this word in John 2:4: “ ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ ” (NIV, emp. added). Jesus used this word when complimenting the Syrophoenician woman’s great faith (Matthew 15:28), when affectionately addressing Mary Magdalene after His resurrection (John 20:15), and when speaking to His disconsolate mother one last time from the cross (John 19:26). Paul used this same word when addressing Christian women (1 Corinthians 7:16). As Adam Clarke noted: “[C]ertainly no kind of disrespect is intended, but, on the contrary, complaisance, affability, tenderness, and concern, and in this sense it is used in the best Greek writers” (1996).
As to why Jesus used the term “woman” (gunai) instead of “mother” (meetros) when speaking to Mary (which even in first-century Hebrew and Greek cultures was an unusual way to address one’s mother), Leon Morris noted that Jesus most likely was indicating
that there is a new relationship between them as he enters his public ministry…. Evidently Mary thought of the intimate relations of the home at Nazareth as persisting. But Jesus in his public ministry was not only or primarily the son of Mary, but “the Son of Man” who was to bring the realities of heaven to people on earth (1:51). A new relationship was established (Morris, 1995, p. 159).R.C.H. Lenski added: “[W]hile Mary will forever remain his [Jesus’—EL] mother, in his calling Jesus knows no mother or earthly relative, he is their Lord and Savior as well as of all men. The common earthly relation is swallowed up in the divine” (1961, p. 189). It seems best to conclude that Jesus was simply “informing” His mother in a loving-yet-firm manner that as He began performing miracles for the purpose of proving His deity and the divine origin of His message (see Miller, 2003, pp. 17-23), His relationship to His mother was about to change.
Finally, the point also must be stressed that honoring fathers and mothers does not mean that a son or daughter never can correct his or her parents. Correction and honor are no more opposites than correction and love. One of the greatest ways parents disclose their love to their children is by correcting them when they make mistakes. Similarly, one of the ways in which a mature son might honor his parents is by taking them aside when they have erred, and lovingly pointing out their mistake or oversight in a certain matter. How much more honorable would this action be than to take no action and allow them to continue in a path of error without informing them of such. We must keep in mind that even though Mary was a great woman “who found favor with God” (Luke 1:30), she was not perfect (cf. Romans 3:10,23). She was not God, nor the “mother of God” (viz., she did not originate Jesus or bring Him into existence). But, she was the one chosen to carry the Son of God in her womb. Who better to correct any misunderstanding she may had had than this Son?
REFERENCESClarke, Adam (1996), Adam Clarke’s Commentary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of the St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “Jesus, Imperfect Beacon,” Biblical Errancy [On-line], URL: http://members.aol.com/ckbloomfld/bepart11.html#issref113.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (no date), “Problems with the Credentials and Character of Jesus,” Biblical Errancy [On-line], URL: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/errancy/issues/iss190.htm.
McKinsey, C. Dennis (1995), The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
McKinsey, C. Dennis (2000), Biblical Errancy (Amherst, NY: Prometheus).
Miller, Dave (2003), “Modern-day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Reason & Revelation, 23:17-24, March.
Morris, Leon (1995), The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Robertson, A.T. (1932), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Vincent, Marvin R. (1997), Word Studies in the New Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).
Common Sense, Miracles, and the Apparent Age of the Earth
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
To many people, the Earth looks extremely old—not hundreds or thousands of years old, but millions or billions of years old. When these individuals hear a creationist talk about a “young Earth” that is only a few thousand years old, they may wonder how someone could hold such a view. “How can anyone look at Earth and think it was created less than 10,000 years ago?” Aside from their reliance on faulty (and often contradictory) assumption-based radiometric dating methods, evolutionists simply believe the Earth looks exceedingly old. The Earth’s rocks, hills, canyons, and mountains leave them with the impression that the Earth has been around for billions of years.
Evolution’s DemandOne must first recognize that evolutionary theory demands an old Earth. As evolutionist Michael Le Page acknowledged in 2008: “A young Earth would…be a problem for evolution, since evolution by natural selection requires vast stretches of time—‘deep time’—as Darwin realized” (198:26, emp. added). He went on to admit forthrightly that one of the main “sorts of findings…that could have falsified evolution…is a young Earth” (p. 26). If it is the case that a young Earth would be a lethal blow to evolutionary theory, it should come as no surprise that evolutionists cannot help but see the Earth as being billions of years old. Even if they did not always have “old-Earth impressions,” the man-made theory of evolution demands such an interpretation of our planet, else the entire theory of evolution would have to be abandoned. [NOTE: Evolution should be abandoned anyway since it is impossible—whether the Earth is young or old. What’s more, many dating methods exist that point to a young Earth (see Humphreys, 2005).]
Define “Old”How does anyone actually know what a billion-year-old Earth looks like? Older humans can be identified accurately as “old” (1) because their actual birthdates can be known (i.e, people witnessed their births and gave them birth certificates), and (2) possibly because their appearance can be compared to both older and younger people. The same can be said for animals and plants. People can know exactly when various animals were born or when a tree was planted. But what about the Earth as a whole? No one was alive when this or any other planet was “born.” No one was present on Earth to see the first rock formed, hill raised, or canyon created. How can anyone reasonably say, “The Earth looks billions of years old”? Old compared to what?
Apparent Age and the Great CatastrophePeople who contend that the Earth appears billions of years old must also discount the very real possibility that one or more great catastrophes could have occurred in the past to drastically change the appearance of the Earth. Many have witnessed how earthquakes, local floods, volcanoes, etc. have radically altered the looks of certain places on Earth (e.g., Mt. St. Helens and Spirit Lake). Consider how a tree that has been struck by lightning or damaged during a flood might appear much older than it is. Newly formed igneous rocks from volcanoes often appear old. A person in his twenties who is badly burned may appear as if he is much older—perhaps two or three times his real age. In truth, Christians rightly interpret the Earth based upon the fact that only a few thousand years ago, God supernaturally altered the Earth’s appearance forever by causing “all the fountains of the great deep” to break up and the “windows of heaven” to open, bringing rain “on the Earth for forty days and forty nights” (Genesis 7:11-12; cf. Psalm 104:6-8). Most of the oil, coal beds, fossil graveyards, etc. in the Earth, which many contend are evidence of an old Earth, can be easily and rationally explained as a result of the worldwide Flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6-8; see Whitcomb and Morris, 1961). In short, even if it could be proven that “the Earth looks very old,” evolutionists cannot rationally deny that such apparent age could be the result of one or more great catastrophes.
Miraculous MaturityThe fact that the Earth appeared older than it actually was at Creation is perfectly logical in light of the nature of God’s miracles. When Jesus miraculously turned water to wine, He did not plant a vine, wait for the grapes to grow over the course of several years, and then harvest them. He supernaturally by-passed this normal, time-laden process and instantaneously made an extremely tasty drink (John 2:1-10). When Jesus fed several thousand men, women, and children with only five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21), He did not make the large amounts of bread needed to feed this many people after planting a crop of wheat, waiting months for it to grow, and then harvesting, threshing, grinding, and baking it. Again, Jesus by-passed a lengthy, natural process and miraculously created bread. Similarly, God made the creation full-grown. He made “the fruit tree” (Genesis 1:11), not just a seed that would eventually grow into a fruit-bearing tree. He created “every winged bird” (Genesis 1:21), not eggs from which birds would hatch months later. He created a grown man capable of walking, talking, working, and procreating (Genesis 1:26-2:25). God miraculously made a mature Creation.
“Mature” LightCertainly one of the most amazing, time-defying, mature miracles of God’s Creation was the creation of the heavenly bodies on day four. God had previously made light (intrinsic light) on day one of Creation; on day four He made the generators of light. [NOTE: Keep in mind that “the Father of lights” (James 1:17), Who is “light” (1 John 1:5), could easily create light without first having to create the Sun. Just as God could produce a fruit-bearing tree on day three without a seed, He could produce light supernaturally on day one without the “usual” light bearers.] Since light travels nearly six trillion miles per year, and since some stars are an estimated 15 billion light years away, evolutionists assume that the Universe must be at least 15 billion years old. Otherwise, how could we see the light from stars that are so far away?
Once again, the answer (or at least a major part of the answer) to this supposed conundrum goes back to the fact that God worked an amazing miracle at Creation. When God created the heavenly bodies (the generators of light) on day four of Creation, He simultaneously (and supernaturally!) made their light to appear on Earth. Light that might naturally take long amounts of time to reach Earth, miraculously reached Earth in an instant. Just as God had said on day one, “‘Let there be light’…and there was light” (Genesis 1:3), on day four He said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens…. And it was so” (1:14,15). These lights were created to “give light on the earth” (1:15,17) and to “divide the day from the night” (1:14,18). God also “set them in the firmament of the heavens…for signs and seasons, and for days and years” (1:17,14, emp. added). God had a purpose for creating the heavenly bodies, and He made them so that man benefitted from them without having to wait long periods of time for their light to reach Earth.
Starlight did not have to travel for 15 billion years before reaching Earth. When God made Adam and Eve two days after His creation of the heavenly bodies, the first couple immediately profited from God’s miraculous creation of starlight. The first couple did not sleep under starless skies for years waiting for light from distant stars to reach Earth. God spoke the stars and their light rays into existence. Similar to how God created full-grown trees in one day (which if cut down may have had dozens or hundreds of visible tree rings), God made light from far-away stars appear instantly. Indeed, considering the nature of God’s miracles at Creation, a star that might “appear” to be extremely old, is actually only a few thousand years old. [NOTE: It is beyond the purview of this article to answer every quibble about starlight and time. Plausible, creation-friendly explanations regarding fluctuations in light from stars, the formation of supernovas, etc. have been offered by various scientists (see Norman and Setterfield, 1987; Humphreys, 1994). Evolutionary physicist João Magueijo (2003) has even proposed that the speed of light is not a constant.]
CONCLUSIONThe fact that the Earth and Universe may appear much older than it is in no way bolsters the case for evolution. In truth, Scripture reveals that both the miracle of a mature Creation and the cataclysmic Flood are adequate explanations for a perceived “old Earth.”
REFERENCESHumphreys, Russell (1994), Starlight and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: Master Books).
Humphreys, Russell (2005), “Evidence for a Young World,” Institute for Creation Research, http://www.icr.org/article/evidence-for-young-world/.
Le Page, Michael (2008), “Evolution: The Ultimate Guide to a Beautiful Theory,” New Scientist, 198:24-33, April 19.
Magueijo, João (2003), Faster Than the Speed of Light (New York: Perseus).
Norman, Trevor and Barry Setterfield (1987), The Atomic Constants, Light, and Time, Technical Report (Menlo Park, CA: Stanford Research Institute International).
Whitcomb, John and Henry Morris (1961), The Genesis Flood (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).